Amidst the swift pace of modern life, some of us might tend to experience a void in mental peace and contentment. What’s the best way to deal with this?

We find ourselves in an era marked by remarkable technological advancements and scientific discoveries. The past century has seen unprecedented growth in the fields of medicine and healthcare, resulting in longer lifespans, improved health conditions, and an enhanced quality of life for many people. But life is also filled with ups and downs. How can we navigate these, while remaining true to the ethics of our faith?

Islam encourages its followers not only to seek material progress, work hard, and contribute to the betterment of society, but also to pursue spiritual growth. This holistic approach to life suggests that the material and spiritual dimensions are interconnected, not conflicting. They complement each other, fostering a well-rounded and fulfilling life. 

In a public address in Syria in 2001, Mawlana Hazar Imam emphasised the importance of maintaining a balance:

“Islam enjoins upon an individual the maintaining of a balance between spiritual life and material well-being, and to ensure that his or her material endeavours are underpinned by the ethical principles of Islam. This balance between din and duniya entails not only the fulfilment of the individual’s spiritual obligation but also the obligation to acquire knowledge and to use it for the benefit of others.”

Yet, life inherently encompasses uncertainties. The Qur’an highlights the transient nature of life's challenges, as tests of one's faith. Qur’anic verses, such as, “Most certainly We shall test you all, so that We might mark out those of you who strive hard and are patient in adversity…” (47:31), suggests the importance of patience and faith in the Divine during moments of adversity. 

In such times, faith can be a source of resilience and strength, providing the fortitude to navigate life's challenges. The Qur’an assures that “Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah, hearts are assured” (13:28). Verses like “Surely with hardship there is ease. With hardship indeed there is ease” (94:5-6), remind us of the cyclical nature of difficulty and the subsequent ease that follows.

These passages also underscore the need to strike a balance conducive to both material and spiritual growth. This mirrors a dynamic, symbiotic relationship wherein the self, faith, and the world converge harmoniously. 

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, in his memoirs, explained that in our daily work, the experience of fulfilment is found in losing oneself, focusing on the task at hand or the well-being of others. He suggested a holistic integration of one's physical, mental, and spiritual aspects. True contentment arises, he said, when these elements are in harmony with each other and work cohesively. He separately said that, “religion should be an affair of everyday minute — like breathing.”

Interestingly, this approach aligns with modern research on human behaviour. Research published by Cambridge University Press has shown that faith can significantly affect individual health and well-being. People find meaning from both internal and external sources, which shape human nature, motivation, and behaviour.

“Faith can serve as a bridge connecting our current circumstances with our future vision,” says Zarafsheen Veerjee, a mental health clinician and project manager at the Aga Khan University’s Brain and Mind Institute. She highlights that the American Psychological Association advocates three key practices—cultivating connections, promoting wellness, and discovering purpose—to enhance resilience. These align with the principles of our faith, in which various rituals and practices not only strengthen faith but also instil resilience.

In short, faith can be a potent force, providing us a framework for understanding and navigating life's challenges. Islam promotes a harmonious integration of the spiritual and the material aspects of life, encouraging us to cope with challenging times with a profound sense of responsibility, gratitude, and dedication to the welfare of others. 

By striving to maintain an equilibrium, let’s navigate the ups and downs of the modern world while considering both personal and societal well-being.